When you master an exercise, you can always modify it to make it more difficult. The same is true for eating.
Healthy habits can be built upon a foundation of a few changes, by setting more goals as you accomplish each step. For example, if you started out with eating breakfast and avoiding nighttime eating, and you have mastered those goals, you are ready for the next step.
If you already consider yourself a healthy eater, congratulations! Is there anything you can still challenge yourself with? Most people will say “yes,” even if that means to simply broaden some horizons.
Here are some tips to challenge even the healthiest of eaters. These might sound silly if you are just starting out, but keep these tips in your back pocket for when you have mastered your new changes!
Jill Koegel is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in Omaha. She blogs every Wednesday. Read more from Jill.
Think about the types of foods you are eating. Are you relying only on eggs and protein bars for protein, fruit for carbs, and almonds for fat? Try making extra grilled chicken, use canned wild salmon (boneless/skinless), and other nut butters such as sunflower seed or cashew butter. For an example of a great alternative to a handful of nuts, try a combo of protein, carbs, and fat by including shelled pumpkin seeds with a few dried tart cherries for a snack.
Use a variety of salad greens. I get stuck with spinach because the kids will eat it, but recently tried a mix of kale, chard, spinach, and carrots. It was a hit, especially after adding a few sliced almonds and fat-free feta cheese. Salads are great easy ways to get lots of vegetables with healthy nutrients all at once.
Try eating completely box-free for a week. This means only fresh foods. I would make the argument that boxed things are not always processed, but to simplify things, just try this. Buy fresh produce, meats, dairy, and eggs. For starches, purchase potatoes of any variety, brown rice, quinoa, oats/oatmeal, and winter squashes. Cook simply - oils are allowed and use broths, spices and herbs to flavor.
Forget about counting everything. If you are active, and you eat small portions of a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals, your body is likely getting what it needs. If your weight, energy level, or appetite changes, take this as a hint to pay closer attention. But for now, be confident that your body is an amazing machine that will tell you when it is hungry and full.
Don't be afraid to cook from a recipe or broaden your horizons. It is actually unhealthy to eat the same thing over and over. Many people make the mistake of doing this, thinking it helps them stick to a “program.” While I like the thought of eating for “function” and staying away from eating for “comfort,” repetitively eating the same thing eventually causes nutrient deficiencies and potential digestive problems.
Once you find yourself stuck in a good pattern, look for something else to move yourself along. There is no “perfect” in eating, so there are always things to improve. If you can admit that to yourself, you will continue to enjoy eating while making changes, and you'll stay healthy at the same time!